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Empty shop to boost business in Crewkerne

By Western Gazette - Crewkerne  |  Posted: January 31, 2013

Members of Crewkerne Town team outside the former furniture shop in South Street

FRESH START: Members of Crewkerne Town team outside the former furniture shop in South Street which they hope to bring back to life as a launch pad for new retail businesses. From left, Laura Taylor, Brian Forster, Jonathan Edgington and Robin Pailthorpe

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Ambitious plans to transform a disused shop into the launch pad for new businesses are being pursued by Crewkerne town team.

The team is seeking around £15,000 to convert the empty former furniture centre on South Street into a base where small businesses can start trading before moving to other premises in the town.

By allowing a number of smaller enterprises to trade under one roof, each can test out their retail ideas in Crewkerne without the expense of committing to a lease on premises.

The “Crewkerne Centre” would also have an on-site manager, offering advice, mentoring and information for any businesses thinking of moving to the town.

It is hoped the base will work in a similar way to the Yeovil Innovation Centre – which hosts non-retail firms.

Crewkerne town team, headed by Jonathan Edgington owner of In-Touch Mobiles, is in the process of submitting a bid for a share of a fund for town centres held by South Somerset District Council.

Mr Edgington, who is also chairman of the Area Business Chamber, spoke at a Crewkerne town council meeting on Monday to appeal for more support.

He said: “We’ve got a number of empty premises and more could be on the horizon in future, however start-up businesses continue to rise nationally and this is the chance for them to choose Crewkerne.

“The aim is to keep premises in town occupied, which is a concern of the Area Business Chamber because it has a knock-on effect on everyone if more become empty.

“This centre would offer substantially discounted rates, providing a stepping stone to getting new businesses into Crewkerne. Every empty shop is a nail in the coffin, to get these places full again we need to inspire people.”

If the team secures all the funding it needs, it will have enough to fix up the old furniture store and operate it as a business centre and premises for three months.

Prospective businesses would face a Dragons’ Den style panel where their suitability would be assessed.

Mr Edgington said: “We want to make sure the people coming here want to make a go of it and don’t just want a retail premises for a few weeks.

“The building is in a good place, a lot of traffic stops in that area so it gets a lot of eye time. Instead of seeing whitewashed windows we want people to see something of a hub for local business.”

The Crewkerne town team started up in December and comprises business leaders, councillors and representatives from community groups.

Councillor Mike Best said: “Crewkerne town centre has turned the corner in recent years, we need to keep the momentum going.”

The town council has granted £1,000 to the town team.

Anyone interested in putting a business plan forward to the town team should contact crewkernett@gmail.com.

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